Employee Satisfaction: The Success Factor
by Mary Rau-Foster, RN BS ARM JD
As seen in “Contemporary Dialysis & Nephrology” magazine, September 1999
Employee satisfaction – or lack of it – hinges on a productive, fulfilling relationship between staff and management; indeed, the success of any organization depends on staff members who enjoy their jobs and feel rewarded by their efforts. Ultimately, of all the people in the marketplace, healthcare consumers may suffer the most when this vital success factor is lacking.
Satisfied employees shine. They are the ones who are attentive to every patient’s need, and “go the extra mile” to be helpful. When employees are unhappy, watch out! A pervasive atmosphere of hostility and ill will spread throughout the workplace; visitors feel its sting, and everything suffers. Sadly, these employees often direct their unhappiness to patients. Too often, this can result in a situations where patients fail to keep appointments for dialysis treatments or will find another dialysis unit. Patients will do anything to avoid yet another negative influence in their lives.
The costs associated with low employee morale can be calculated by looking at the expenses associated with decreased productivity, unresolved conflict, employee turnover, and unproductive time spent gossiping and complaining to co-workers.
Is it possible to create an environment where employees are motivated to do their jobs to the best of their abilities – and communication satisfaction to everyone around them? The answer is yes, when management takes the time to learn what motivates employees to do their best work, and what contributes to a sense of well being and satisfaction.
SYMPTOMS OF LOW EMPLOYEE MORALE
The symptoms of low morale include the following:
• increased absenteeism
• conflict among employees
• complaints about seemingly insignificant issues
• increased turnover (either voluntary or involuntary)
• theft and/or sabotage
• decreased productivity
• disorganized and unkempt workplace environment
• increased patient complaints and conflict
A workplace environment that does not understand, appreciate, and foster the need of all employees for recognition, appreciation, and for fair and equitable treatment is one that may see chaos, conflict, confusion and turnover.
Employees need to know they are a valuable member of an organization, and are respected for their contributions.
There is a psychological contract between an employee and employer. This contract is based on the employee carrying out certain workplace duties in exchange for the employer meeting certain employee needs. An employer has the right to expect that an employee carry out duties in a competent and appropriate manner The employee needs recognition, and proof of his value with satisfactory monetary compensation.
When an employee’s needs are not being met, the result is low self-esteem, a condition that can result in chaos with an organization.
IMPROVING EMPLOYEE MORALE
One way to problem-solve low employee morale is to implement an employee satisfaction survey. Such a survey can identify any problems, and will serve a useful purpose if management take steps to resolve the difficulties. However, this practice comes with a caveat. Employee surveys should be submitted to management anonymously. Employees will be less than honest if they are held personally accountable for the sharing of their ideas and suggestions. Surveys, therefore, should include general questions only. Other personal matters can be saved for annual, on-on-one employee evaluations.
Motivating employees can be complicated, since individuals respond to different conditions. For example, some people are naturally “self motivated” and come to the workplace already equipped with good self-esteem. However, this can disintegrate if they are not treated as valuable additions to an organization.
Others are motivated by the fear of loss, i.e., if they do not get to the job on time, they will be fired and will lose their means of support. Still others respond to satisfactory monetary compensation, and do best with a program of periodic salary increases based on job performance.
Employers can create an environment that motivates employees by providing the tools, resources, information, and emotional support that best fulfills each employee. Programs can include offering non-financial rewards, as well, such as employee appreciation banquets, holiday celebration events, “Employee of the Month” or “Employee of the Year” programs, and on-site motivational programs conducted by stimulating speakers.
An employee’s “needs assessment” also should be part of the interviewing process. When managers ask the proper questions, it can easily be determined what gives a prospective candidate job fulfillment, and what does not. Ideally, a candidate should be hired only after it is determined that employer’s business needs, and the applicant’s motivational needs, are a good match.
There is an old saying: “If you think that education is expensive, try ignorance.” This quote could be used to make the same point with cost associated with making improvements to raise employee morale and job performance. Measures taken do not need to be expensive. If an employee desires respect and recognition, these needs can be met by creating and maintaining a nurturing, supportive environment. The presentation of employee recognition awards (plaques, certificates, etc.) are very effective tools, for example.
An organization will benefit on two fronts; improved employee productivity, and improved patient care and patient compliance. An environment that recognizes that it’s employees are valuable gems that need the proper setting and occasional stroking (or buffing) to shine will reap the numerous benefits. If not, an employer will have gone to the considerable expense of shaping and training an employee only to have him or her move on to shine in some other organization’s setting.
A healthcare organization’s goals include quality service to patients. Too often, attracting and keeping quality employees in order to achieve that goal is swept under the rug. Creating an environment where employees who are “real jewels,” and are admired, polished, and appreciated will result in an organization. In addition, weeding out the employees who are “fake gems” is necessary to protect the tarnishing of the organization’s image.
The healthcare organization with the right approach will be the one to reap the rewards of success.
About the Author
Mary Rau-Foster is a nurse and lawyer with a special interest in workplace issues, particularly employee morale and motivation. She is trained in civil and workplace mediation and is a certified workplace mediation trainer.
Please Note: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not the intent of Mary Rau-Foster to render legal advice. If legal advice is required, you should seek the services of a competent lawyer.
© Mary Rau-Foster. Reprinted by permission of “Contemporary Dialysis & Nephrology” magazine.